Five Sonnets for Summer Storage in the High School Book Room

Original Text: 

Jason Guriel. Pure Product. Montréal, Québec: Véhicule Press, 2009.

1In here, sunlight's fingers never rummage.
2For the most part, the exposed spines of shelved
3paperbacks—perfect bound with low-wattage
4fluorescence, a glue aglow—have been halved
5by brutal cracks, those fault lines a careless
6perusal rules into place. Yes, I dread
7the eleventh grader who parted this
8crisp copy of The Collector, who spread
9it flat as a prized butterfly, leaning
10his mind on two fine wings of Fowles' words
11until the spine finally creased. Reading
12eyes should light upon their leaf like small birds.
13Books deserve the care of Golding's Piggy
14cradling his conch, his democracy.
15When judging books by cover, don't send down
16Lennon's killer, The Catcher in the Rye
17in pocket-sized paperback—Little Brown's
18falsely accused suspect. Some covers lie
19to readers, but not Salinger's, bound in
20blank blurbless white, as nude as nuns' habits.
21And though some fingers find cheap stock a sin,
22Little Brown's thumb-blackening newsprint sits
23well with my faith. Small as a Gideon
24Bible—minus God, guilt, and gold-edging—
25the pallid paperback tends to darken
26with every semester's fingerprinting
27but its soul isn't, as Holden would deem,
28phony. Words, not their grimy covers, gleam.
29Pity, piled in stacks for summer, One
30Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, its cover
31forced to read (over and over) blurbs on
32the flush, pointblank backside of another.
33The insane also learn to loathe themselves
34by synopsis when stood on their edges
35and lined up along reinforced steel shelves
36like suicides manning their last ledges.
37Novels, packed and pressed close together, fear
38madness, fear Kurtz's horror the horror
39as each UPC, confronting its rear
40copy's cover, clangs shut like a cell door.
41So shun fresh paintings. Liberate the old.
42Summer sentences colour paper gold.
43Although novels must endure the summer
44some texts anticipate September fame.
45A crude archivist, the inside cover
46provides space to immortalize your name,
47year, homeroom, crush—the opportunity
48to enter history. Young signatures
49are scrawled kinked knots—shoelaces hastily
50snarled. I bested this book, they assure,
51and unseam'd its theme. I strode with Macbeth
52towards King Duncan's bed (while facing note
53clarified Tarquin) and predicted death
54for Piggy, sucked to sea like a small boat.
55Holding the very thing Ray Bradbury
56torched at four fifty-one, I felt lucky.
57A previous reader's PC outrage
58annotates this edition of Huck Finn.
59The word "RACIST," scrawled across every page
60in red pencil, wends its way from margin
61to margin, trying to rouse the type—straight
62as a company of Confederates—
63to lay down weapons and emancipate
64the word "nigger," typeset by bayonets.
65It wants, that cry of racism, to spear
66marching rows of imperialist text,
67to stone, bottle, and rain on riot gear,
68exhume and lynch dead white Twains by their necks.
69But if we excise all the books that prick
70how will Shylock bleed and prove anemic?
RPO poem Editors: 
Jim Johnstone
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

Poem used with permission of the author.